“Can I be blunt of this subject? If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
- Stephen King “On Writing”
And if you don’t have the tools or the ability to write, getting your message out and effective content marketing will be significantly harder, if not impossible.
And if you can’t get your message out nor have effective content marketing, you can’t market in 2020/21.
And if you can’t market, whether yourself or your business in 2020/21, that is problematic in the least.
You need reading for writing. You need writing for marketing. You need marketing for the health of your business (and personal brand for that matter).
(Fun Fact. I watched Stephen King’s “It” when I was far too young to do so and to this day have an irrational discomfort with clowns.)
How Does Reading Help My Marketing?
Since it was the most prevalent theme of going through all of the writing and writing-centric MasterClass as well as being a big “ah-ha” from 2020, I get asked this fairly often.
In coaching many fitness professionals to streamline their marketing, get more leads, thus more members, I’ve found not only is reading, and particularly reading fiction, one of the most underrated tools in their marketing arsenal…
But it also will likely yield one of the biggest returns on investment because it addresses one of the majority of marketer’s and vast majority of fitness professional’s marketing gaps - Being able to write.
There is always something to be said about not ignoring strengths in order to work on weaknesses, but there is no argument that addressing the biggest gaps and weakest links yield great returns.
Writing To Improve Marketing
If writing isn’t an above average skillset one commands, a lot of the things that are “more formal” marketing are infinitely more challenging, if even possible.
As said, when it comes to marketing and marketing effectively, one of the skillsets that is often lacking is the ability to write. The easy correlation is writing ad copy and blogs, which are obviously vital.
But with the rise of content marketing as the foundation that all other marketing sits atop, it correlates to it all.
Better writing gets you more engaging content. More engaging content gets you an audience who knows, likes, and trusts you and your brand. With that audience, marketing goes from kind of complicated with a lot of moving parts to far, far simpler.
Increasing the skill of writing makes actually sitting down to write infinitely easier and makes creativity in the lens of ’What do I write and create content about?’ easier as well.
Developing the skill of writing takes patience and practice. Both in general but particularly because it isn’t something that comes natural to most.
While we tend to avoid things we aren’t good at or inclined towards, it stands that one of the most effective tools in your marketing toolkit is to be able to write and write well.
Your ad copy, your blogs, your social media content, your emails, etc, all rely on it. Your marketing relies on all of that.
“The best writers seem to read our minds, and they nail exactly what we’ve never been able to put into words.”
Chuck Palahniuk “Consider This”
Why Reading For Writing
What is the most universally recommended thing when it comes to writers or experts on writing in regard to how to become a better writer?
Reading, with an emphasis on reading fiction specifically.
I’ll defer this part to the master writers themselves.
Stephen King — ‘On Writing’
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”
“Good writing teaches the learning writer about style, graceful narration, plot development, the creation of believable characters, and truth telling.”
“You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself.”
“The more you read, the less apt you are to make a fool of yourself with your pen or word processor.”
‘Malcolm Gladwell Teaches Writing’ MasterClass
“The way to keep your reader in mind as a writer is first and foremost to be a reader. And when I say that, I don’t just mean someone who reads but I mean someone who takes the task of reading seriously.”
“When you think about reading as an act as consequential as writing, it’s not a lesser act. Reading is of equal importance to writing. There is no writing without reading. These two acts, reading and writing are symbiotic, they are coupled. To do one well requires doing the other well.”
‘Aaron Sorkin Teaches Screenwriting’ MasterClass
“Learn The Rules of Story. The way you’re going to learn about screenwriting, writing for television, writing plays is by watching movies, watching television, watching plays and mostly by reading screenplays, reading teleplays, reading plays. People who love cars, they take apart cars. People who are super into computers, they all have one thing in common, they all took a computer apart when they were 9 years old.”
‘RL Stine Teaches Writing For Young Audiences’ MasterClass
Gain Storytelling Skills By Reading. Somehow it goes hand in hand, if you want to be a writer, you probably are a good reader. Reading makes you a better writer, not by stealing ideas etc, but by osmosis. Remember the things you love, the things you read, and develop them in a different way.
‘Dan Brown Teaches Writing Thrillers’ MasterClass
“The more you read, the more you’re gonna know how stories are put together.”
‘Billy Collins Teaches Reading and Writing Poetry’ MasterClass
That’s why it’s very important to read and read voraciously, so you’ll know what you can contribute. You’ll get a sense of what’s been said and how it’s been said.
Why Fiction Specifically?
Being Effective Subconsciously
There is no coincidence that the people who are inclined towards or “have a knack” for writing also have a history of reading fiction.
“Many writers are born out of readers.”
- ‘Salman Rushdie Teaches Storytelling and Writing’ MasterClass
Throughout High School and College, I would often be told that I was such a good writer and I didn’t really believe it because I didn’t know of anything I had done to be one.
But in hindsight, I kind of “grew up” on RL Stine’s “Goosebumps”, Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” series, Chuck Palahniuk, and oddly enough, RPG video games which all had quite a bit of reading to them.
When you read and read often, you are able to subconsciously follow the rules of writing and writing well without realizing you are doing it. It gives you the ability for it to come naturally to you.
A perfect example of the “osmosis” RL Stine mentioned. Which is huge.
The more I can do something effectively without having to think about doing it effectively? Bring me that as often as possible, please.
‘How did you know whether or not to use a preposition here?’
Uh, because it sounded wrong or weird with it.
‘How did you know (insert grammar rule) here?’
Uh, because it sounded wrong or weird any other way.
I don’t know about you, but “being creative” is not a skill I was naturally imparted. Unless you count coloring as creative. I’m a decent color-er…
But seriously, even with it being a skill I have actively worked rather hard to acquire, I am still not good at it and it takes some thought and effort to accomplish in the little I am able to. Reading fiction has helped.
(Fun Fact. It didn’t take long at all for my 4 year old to realize that pretty much all of the bedtime stories I tell her follow the same theme. A For Effort, I guess.)
Fiction sparks ideas, inspiration, and creativity. Discovering new stories, different views of stories you are familiar with, and aspects or strategies in those stories being told.
In addition to the benefits of being more creative in terms of getting better at marketing itself, it also makes one a better storyteller.
And one of the easiest ways to get people to listen to what you are saying or marketing or selling is to be a great storyteller.
Be able to tell all the stories. You get that by reading them, how it is told, the devices used, the pacing kept, the plot twists, the pieces withheld, etc.
“I get it, but I don’t have time to read…”
This invariably comes up in conversations and I get it. We are all busy, I know. It’s an excuse for some, but a genuine obstacle for others.
I specifically get asked how I consume so much continuing education as well as read as much as I do since I have multiple businesses and three kids 4 and under. I absolutely understand busy.
But as a result, I also understand systems and consistency.
For me, and for this part pretty much everyone, it is like we talk about with exercise, it comes down to making it a priority because it should be a priority.
It always comes down to prioritizing the thing. Hopefully I’ve done some convincing or at least put it on your radar that reading and reading fiction has direct application to your personal branding, marketing, and business success.
So now we find ways to prioritize it and work it into our life and systems. In this context, prioritizing the thing mainly means keeping it on your radar as something to keep at top of mind to look for opportunities.
Blending It Into The Gaps
In “On Writing”, Stephen King talks about how he doesn’t go anywhere without a book and reads it whenever he has a spare minute.
I do the same thing with my iPad and Kindle App. Waiting somewhere for something, a spare minute here, there, etc, I read a bit of the book I’m reading. You will be surprised how many of these opportunities you come across and also how much reading gets done over time during them.
When I am on a plane and/or traveling to an event (RIP Traveling ☹ I love you and will always remember you), I am reading or reading with my ears to an audiobook. (For those who know me, yes, I am back on the audiobook wagon)
If I am driving alone, I am reading with my ears.
That 5-15 minutes before you have an appointment where there isn’t enough time to start something else but too much time to not do anything? I read a bit.
I always read in the recess and the repose.
Reading in the gaps where we typically are either doing nothing, something mindless, and/or scrolling social media adds no time but adds up reading.
The above strategies apply to fiction and non-fiction alike. This next one is where I get a lot of my fiction reading done and is exclusively fiction.
Building a Habit Around It
Every night as part of my bedtime routine, I read for 30 minutes in bed. Sometimes if the tornado wrecking balls that are my children have gone to sleep before those 30 minutes, I will often read some for more time before getting in bed for that 30.
I’ve found with some ‘track and measure’ (not trial and error) that 30 minutes of fiction in bed is the perfect middle ground between enough time winding down in bed to get sleepy but not too much time that I fall into the “doing too many things that aren’t sleep in your bed” sleep health rule.
This section is short but don’t miss its power. You are already spending time winding down in bed anyway, it may not be 30 minutes winding down, but it also is adding far less than 30 minutes into your schedule.
Plus, 30 minutes a night is 180+ hours of reading a year. At an average of 300 pages a book and 6 hours of reading per 300 pages, that’s 30 books a year.
And an answer no one likes to hear…
With the initial caveat that this is no knock or judgment on watching TV, Netflix, etc. You do you, boo boo.
In an assessment of how I consume so much continuing education and read so much it has to be mentioned that I am “one of those” who doesn’t watch a whole lot of TV, Netflix/Hulu, etc. (I’m also just going to refer to all TV/streaming apps as “Netflix” from here on out…)
It certainly isn’t zero, but it is a conscious effort and certainly less than pretty much all of the people in my social media feeds per how often they are able to talk about the things they watched.
And when it does happen, it is usually related to some kind of cont ed I’m consuming. Example: Watching Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom” because well, Aaron Sorkin fanboy here, but also watching how he applies “being musical in dialogue”, and implements overlapping, interwoven story arcs, which were lessons from his MasterClass.
I know I could be considered a borderline crazy person and it certainly isn’t normal as I certainly have trouble “shutting off” as seen by watching TV and movies to learn things and not just watch.
As well as have debates with myself about how I “can’t” even watch a TV show or movie for the sake of watching a TV show or movie, but to learn something from it, but there are certainly far more detrimental habits.
In short, the time that would otherwise be spent watching Netflix, I spend either reading or consuming cont ed of some kind.
But also worth noting, stories in books are usually way more interesting than most of what is on Netflix anyway and fairly often, where they came from. Plus, I can read a book with my kids in the same room without either scarring them or having to answer 1000 “why” questions. Had my parents done this, I wouldn’t have the clown issue.
The average person spends quite a few hours a week watching Netflix. There are ‘studies’ out there spouting all kinds of numbers, some shocking if accurate, but my point here simply is the answer is pretty high.
While with no judgment on one’s number there, that is a ‘pretty high amount’ I don’t have that on my weekly time plate so some of that time gets allocated to consuming cont ed and reading…
But also to getting pooped on, breaking up fights, getting up when I’ve just sat down, repeating myself, stepping on odd sharp objects, getting hit in the genitals with an unhealthy and logic defying frequency, as well as other glorious perils of parenting multiple small humans.
(Also, Fun Fact. Stepping on dried play-doh is far worse than stepping on legos.)
Just Doing Things You Enjoy
Also worth noting that reading and consuming continuing education are for the most part for me, two of my versions of self-care and renewal strategies.
They are the things I do to relax, fill my cup back up. They just happen to be things that benefit in a business sense as well.
Prioritizing it simply because learning in general, learning something new or learning something new you can implement into your life or business helps your recharge, renew, and fill back up is reason enough and was a big breakthrough for me.